I’m pretty sure everyone has a “before” and “after” event that marks the central most important part of your life where everything is spoken with, “No, it was BEFORE such and such….” or “Yes, after such and such was when…” This can either be a wonderful time like a child’s birth, engagement, a career change for the better….or it can be something traumatic like your parent’s divorce to which you always refer with your siblings as, “Before mom and dad split up…” or a natural disaster that affected you, loss of a job or the loss of a loved one.
I find that with my family and close friends of my family, a huge mark on our timelines and the turning point of our life story is the day my sister had her seizure. April 15, 2007. That day has now become our “before” and “after”. No matter what we’re talking about, a lot of the time it will start with, “Before Natalie got sick,” or “After Natalie passed away.” It just seems like there is so much constant longing for the “before”. Before was when our lives were whole; no, not perfect or without stress, just whole. With her. And that moment she had her seizure our lives as we knew it took a dramatic halt and changed in to a chaotic disaster of sorts. Dealing with life was different because 24 hours before we were all just going about our days as usual. I was in Las Vegas raising my 20 month old daughter and talking to Natalie as I folded laundry and did the dishes as she did the same and we would just laugh and shoot the breeze as she was excited about going back to school. Carrie would hang out with her while the kids played at the Burger King play area and they dealt with their lives together. While our mom played a huge role in all of our lives by always keeping us close and needing each other.
So April 15th marked that day where we then started our walk together as a family facing this evil. Watching Natalie battle this horrible cancer called Glioblastoma, we continued having hope that a miracle would happen. This all just became somewhat of a living nightmare. Did we know what to do with 4 young children now left to watch their mom suffering when just a week ago she was a stay at home mom who tended to their every need? No, we had no clue what we were doing, we just did as if we were all on automatic pilot and feeling our way through things completely blind. We also had a few friends help us with our needs (unfortunately there were others who disappeared) like bringing us meals and helping in any way they could. Without them we probably would have starved. We needed to all be at our strongest in order to make it through this with our sanity and faith in God still in tact and keep Natalie’s wants and needs met. Most importantly for her was that we took great care of her kids. Although communication was difficult, she definitely would let you know in her way that she was either happy with what you did with them or if she was less that thrilled, which was not anything new since we were well aware how much Natalie loved her babies and made sure you did, too. I still feel awful for arguing with her that first month when she said I was being “bossy” with her kids. But as usual we made up within the hour.
Those 13 months were one big blur. So much so that somewhere along the 11 month mark I had a baby, but because of the timing I’m not quite sure who breastfed him and changed his diaper because I don’t remember anything during that period other than being in Nat’s home as much as possible along with my other sister and mom…although I do remember him sleeping swaddled up next to her quite a bit. She loved her some babies and I felt it would be selfish of me to not let her be a part of his life. So often I would see her reach for him with her pinky and that is something I will never forget.
The loss of my amazing sister will forever mark the timeline in our family as our “after”. Since she passed away life has yet to go back to “normal”. Not sure if it ever will since it still seems like that hope is still there waiting for the void to be filled. Even still, nearly 4 years later when I’m folding laundry or cleaning house I wish I could call her up and chat with her hearing her say, “Bean weans!!” her ever so loving name for me. She sure was funny. And caring. And thoughtful beyond measure. And wise. And a great example of a wonderful mother. And I wish I had her to ask so many parenting questions, especially since we would both be raising girls of the same age together and I know she would think Roman was hilarious and enjoy laughing at some of my frustrations…but she laughed in the most loving way to never make you feel bad, but to let you know that when it all comes down to it, parenting is all pretty funny when you think back on the events that made you the angriest.
And as my family continues our life together, dealing with a void of someone we all loved so much, we wonder when this “after” will not be so painful. When will we stop looking at her children without feeling sad for them that they were robbed from having such an unconditionally loving mother? When will I stop wishing I could just have one more conversation with her just to hear her laugh? All we can do is hope for nothing else as monumental as the loss of her to ever happen again in this family. And so we pray.
Everyone has a moment that takes precedence over everything else on their existing timeline. Some are wonderful, some are awful but no matter what it is it’s significant enough for you to refer to it as before and after. If you think of yours I’d love to hear it. 🙂